by Marq Manner
I really enjoyed Lincoln Exposed last night (Friday). I haven’t seen people that excited about local original music in a long time. At times, people were crawling over each other just to see the bands, and I can’t remember the last time I experienced that with bands that one can probably see a few weeks later in calmer conditions.
There was a vibe from start to finish on the third night of the four-day festival. This started at 6 p.m. at The Zoo Bar with a very respectable happy-hour crowd listening to songwriter Bonehart Flannigan. Flannigan played as a four-piece acoustic string act and their rootsy sound was perfect for the early evening environment. The group didn’t keep the set too mellow, throwing in some rousing numbers to keep the crowd's focus. Flannigan commented a few times on how well the crowd was engaged in the performance. Lincoln over the years has done a great job building up the Friday Afternoon Club (F.A.C.) mentality. It’s a good opportunity for acts to play in front of an audience that isn’t too liquored up or distracted.
Next up was The Allendales who would be performing their last set after four years of being together. The Allendales are an excellent example of what a good bar rock band should be. They have the songs and the chops and their music mixes well with booze and at one time a good amount of smoke before they banned such things. The band played to a full room at the strange hour of 7 p.m. and yet made it feel like it was an 11:30 p.m. show. They were the only band that I saw this night that received an encore, which is unusual in a festival setting, but deserved considering the circumstances.
I headed over to Duffy’s at 8 p.m. for a band that had been described to me as “experimental”, which always sets off red flags in my mind. The band, Entendre Entendre, were experimental with three members playing drums, bass, two DJs, sax, a very strange “keytar” of sorts homemade with arcade game buttons, guitar and further sampling. The all-instrumental band was young and impressive. The drummer/bassist was a lot of fun to watch and full of energy. The sax provided contrast to the sampling chaos that surrounded, and the guitar had a very Vinni Reily (Durutti Column) style of ethereal ambience to it. There was a jam feel to the approach they were taking to playing the music, and when they all clicked together it was quite impressive.
Up next at Duffy’s was Lil’ Slim Blues Band, who were filling in for the Mezcal Brothers who had to cancel the gig. Duffy’s filled up quickly at this point and Lil’ Slim (fresh from their trip to the Memphis Blues Challenge) performed a smoking set of pure blues proving easily why they were chosen out of many other Nebraska bands for that trip.
The crowd only grew larger for Lincoln heroes, Ideal Cleaners. The band drove through their set of precision aggressive rock like only they can. Words like “machine,” “locomotive,” etc., kept running through my head during their set. Lincoln Journal Star’s L. Kent Wolgamott (@KentWolgamott) put it best when he tweeted, “ Ideal Cleaners still Lincoln's top of the rock - heavy, tight, propulsive.” Ideal Cleaners are the Lincoln rock sound. It is the sound I remember from my young 20s, seeing bands in Lincoln open up for nationals I drove there to watch, and the sound I remember when I spent more time in the Lincoln scene while managing the Homer’s Music store there a little later in life.
The best new find of the night was at The Bourbon Theater Rye Room where Universe Contest was playing. The band (which I am told are former members of Gooses) were exciting, interesting and explosive sonically. They were appealing and catchy though they did not color within any lines or play nicely with the formula for current indie music that has been thoroughly mapped out. This was one of those moments where people were crawling over each other to see the band play with a ferocious energy only to drop down to more somber moments at the stop of a drumstick. I had to climb up some stairs (also full of people) and hold on to a bar with one hand just to catch glimpses of the group. I have listened to their album online three times today (winners.bandcamp.com/
) and this is one of the most interesting and exciting bands I have heard out of the area in a long time. I would travel to Lincoln again just to see them, though I hope we will be seeing many more Omaha appearances in the future.
I finished out the Lincoln Exposed portion of my night back at Duffy’s where Lloyd McCarter & The Honky Tonk Revival were playing their pure brand of country and honky tonk. Lloyd McCarter performs this music effortlessly and is not a wannabe. You can tell this is his lifestyle and it is in his blood. He and the band perform it as good as most national bands and easily as well as all Nebraska bands. I am the music co-chair for the Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards and all I could think through his set was how he got missed in this year’s nominations. It is admittedly a huge oversight on our part.
Congratulations to the organizers of Lincoln Exposed for a successful night (and from what I hear, a successful festival). To get that many people out in freezing cold temperatures and have a lineup that gets people that excited is not easy to do. Also congrats to the Lincoln music scene — it was said more than once last night “live music is alive and well in Lincoln.”